Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe cancels pilgrimage amid COVID-19 concerns

Hundreds of glass vase religious candles featuring the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe lit on church floor in Mexico

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A religious celebration that brings as many as a quarter of a million pilgrims each December to a Catholic shrine in suburban Des Plaines has been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Tuesday that the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe overnight event, which was planned for Dec. 11 and 12, has been canceled this year.

With coronavirus cases surging across the country and in Illinois, officials from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe determined keeping everyone safe wouldn’t be possible this year. Instead, The Shrine will now hold services virtually and are encouraging people to celebrate the feast day from their own homes or their home parishes.

“Maybe that’s one blessing about this. Maybe we should be praying at home together, as a family, more often. And maybe it’s an experience to re-ignite in our homes," said Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Des Plaines church.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much hardship and pain for so many,” the Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Des Plaines church, said in a news release. “The message of comfort offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother?’ extends particularly to us today. While we cannot observe this feast as we have in the past, it is still a time of prayer, petition and hope.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago said the parking lots at the shrine and off-site locations will be closed. Police, who normally help direct traffic to the site will this year keep the grounds secure and “direct traffic and individuals away from the Shrine.”

The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the most visited shrine of its kind in the country.

It is especially important to people of Mexico and those of Mexican descent.​

The Shrine’s website will host a schedule of livestreamed masses.